Scripture: Mark 14:27-42
Key verse: (31) “All of them said the same.”
Reflection: “Well that’s it boys! I’ve been redeemed. The preacher done warshed away all my sins and transgressions. It’s the straight and narrow from here on out, and heaven everlasting’s my reward.” So says Delmar O’Donnell to his friends Pete and Ulysses after his baptism in the movie, “O Brother, Where Art Thou.” Ulysses responds, “Delmar, what are you talking about? We’ve got bigger fish to fry.” “The preacher says all my sins is warshed away, including that Piggly Wiggly I knocked over in Yazoo,” Delmar proclaims. To which Ulysses responds, “I thought you said you was innocent of those charges?” “Well I was lyin’,” says Delmar. “And the preacher says that that sin’s been warshed away too. Neither God nor man’s got nothin’ on me now. C’mon in boys, the water is fine.”
Unfortunately, the passion of that faithful moment did not endure for Delmar. In the wake of his conversion, he gets involved in car theft, a bank robbery, and a seduction by sirens under the influence of some serious moonshine. Delmar’s passionate proclamation in the moment reminds me of Peter and his proclamation. “Even though I must die with you,” he says to Jesus, “I will not deny you.” In Mark’s version of the gospel, Peter is not alone in his passionate conviction. “And all of them said the same,” Mark tells us. Immediately after declaring their loyalty, they fall asleep on the job while Jesus is in one of the most intense moments of his ministry, praying that the hour might pass from him, knowing his betrayer is on the move. What are the disciples who just pledged that they would die for Jesus doing? Sleeping.
And all of them said the same. “I’m never doing that again.” “I would never make that mistake!” “From now on, I’m making faith a priority in my life. I’m not going to let anything get in the way.” Have you ever found yourself in Delmar or the disciples’ shoes? I know I have. It’s one of the reasons I’m a Presbyterian. We are very honest about human failings. We know we cannot save ourselves. If our salvation is dependent on our own faithfulness, then we are doomed. No human being in Scripture remains faithful throughout their life—all fall short, save one. That’s why he’s Lord. That’s why he’s Savior. This is not to say that the decisions we make, the actions we take, or fail to take are not important in our lives of faith. They are. But they are penultimate to the choice God has made for us in Christ. Remembering this, perhaps we can find a little grace for Peter and for one another, maybe even for ourselves. God does. Can we?
Prayer: Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. For the resolutions I’ve made that trusted in my own strength to achieve, forgive my failings. Enable me to embrace the fact that you alone are my strength. In you, I can indeed do all things. For that grace, I give you thanks and praise. Amen.
Author: Joe Clifford
Here’s a link to the full baptism scene from “O Brother, Where Art Thou?”:
[Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright © 1989 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved].